Monday, June 30, 2014

Annihilators For Cosmic Patrol

Annihilators are one of the most feared weapons in the galaxy. Equipping a ship with one is practically a declaration of war, which is why very few Cosmic Patrol vessels carry this weapon. In contrast, many pirates take a fierce pride in the use of Annihilators, which have often been seized from the most ruthless and unspeakable of alien menaces.

First and foremost, they are a terror weapon. A species of Death Beam, Annihilators are so effective because they completely bypass armor, concentrating their lethal effect on living matter. This is of course very convenient for pirates (at least in theory) because Annihilators are a weapon which eliminates people while leaving plunder intact.

Of course, the truth is a bit more complicated yet.

Annihilators often inflict a condition known as Overkill. When absorbing annihilation radiance, the flesh has two responses. For most victims, contact with an Annihilator spells death. However a small but certain number of those targeted by this lethal radiance experience a weird transformation, leaving behind a ravenous, living corpse hell-bent on revenge. Many a pirate boarding party has learned to rue the day their Captain trained an Annihilator on another ship.

This terrible weapon also comes in hand-held portable versions:
  • Annihilator Pistol: D6 damage that bypasses armor*;  Ranges: OK, OK, -3
  • Annihilator Rifle: D10 damage that bypasses armor*; Ranges: -3**, OK, OK
*Energy screens may provide protection against this weapon.
**Because it is a very bulky weapon

It is unusual for a combat team to be equipped with more than one of these weapons, as the beam's penetrance combined with crossfire quickly poses lethal problems for all sides.

Special: Any time a target's health is reduced to Knocked Out by Annihilator damage, someone may spend 1 Plot Point to declare that the target has succumbed to Overkill. (Players can negate this for their own character by spending a Plot Point.) The target rises, and the person who spent the Plot Point determines who the Overkilled attacks next. It's future actions are determined by the LN, subject to narrative challenges by players.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Mooks In Cosmic Patrol

Lesser NPCs in Cosmic Patrol are hard to kill; here are some rules for NPC mooks:
  • A mook has four skills: Brawn, Brains, Charisma, and Combat. Assign a d8, and d10 to one of the four stats each; give the two others d6's.    
  • A garden variety mook gets one point of Armor.
  • A garden variety mook gets one point of Health. When this is checked off, the mook is unconscious or dead. 
  • Weapons and Equipment are assigned normally.
Alternatively, a mook has just two stats: Combat and Everything Else. Assign the two stats a d6 and d8 respectively, or a d8 and d10, depending on the desired competence of the mook. Armor, Health, Weapons and Equipment are unchanged.

A third variation may be used for mooks with unusual or special abilities. Give the mook three stats: Combat, Special, and Everything Else. Specify a special ability for the Special stat. Then assign dice to the three stats as follows: d6,d8, d10. Alternatively, promote the d10 to a d12, and reduce the d6 to a d4. Armor, Health, Weapons and Equipment are unchanged.

Mooks can act in groups. To create a group of mooks that act as one, the only change you need to make is to add the number of Health points corresponding to the additional members making up the group. Every hit to health after the first and only point of Armor is expended kills one of the mooks. 

The number of mooks in the mook group serves as a bonus to the mook's Combat roll as follows: 
  • Mook Group Combat Roll = d12 + Combat/Special + Modifier [# Additional Mooks] 
  • As mooks in the group are killed, the Modifier decreases accordingly
Keep the size of mook groups to about 3-4 members total. An NPC can control as many mooks (single or in groups) as their die type in Charisma. 

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

The Robots Are Taking Over

On the way to gaming last night, I saw this this robot repairman (complete with repairman's cap, sold separately) and his faithful robot dog companion. They both look pretty happy. The dog is definitely more of the chipper short than K-9.

The robot repairman has a gap in the teeth on the right side of his mouth - perfect for the placement of a robo-cigar, pipe, or a tool.

The side of the truck was even more fabulous, showing off the robot repairman's full-color tool belt.

If you visit Kunlun Station, these kinds of characters are a common sight. I may just stat them up for Strangers & Friends.

Monday, June 23, 2014

Strangers & Friends: Shining Lake Sector

Shining Lake Sector is a vast region of space located just beyond the Empire. Shining Lake Sector is a prosperous autonomous zone - one with many local conflicts due to the prosperity of the sector. In this politically turbulent zone, factional alliances are often quite fleeting, and the plethora of micro-polities that may rule one or several systems rise and fall quickly.

The sector has both human and alien species, with humans belonging to one of two gene lines:
  • East Asians who arrived in the sector on the free trader and colony vessels of the Early Diasporic Era.
  • Comet Barbarians whose clan movements crisscross sector boundaries between the Empire and the Shining Lake Sector. The most prominent clans include: 
    • Green Comet Barbarian clans that have migrated outward as the Empire's borders expanded; these tribes form the core of the Legio I Green Banner Army
    • The Black Comet Barbarian clans, who form the core of Legio V and Legio X; and 
    • The Gold clans who maintain several "independent" pirate fleets that invariably target any interests or powers that get in the Empire's way.     
Three prominent alien species also have a presence sector-wide, but none have their origins here. The sector's de facto capital, Kunlun Station, started its existence one million years ago as a vast refugee relocation facility. Built by the R.U.R., Kunlun Station was established using a slipknot connection from Fountain, an industrial system in a coreward region of R.U.R. space. Through the Fountain slipknot, three endangered species fleeing the Anti-Consciousness at the galactic core were evacuated from the Embattled Wavefront and helped by the R.U.R. to resettle in Shining Lake Sector:
  • Parturitionists, a species of giant arachnids that have established friendly relations with humans. The Parturitionists helped the first pioneers from Earth establish new human populations in this sector. Parturitionists and humans have co-colonized many worlds in the sector, and on some worlds have even established households together. 
  • Dragonbeams, a long-bodied, double-winged avian insectoid species. Dragonbeams avoid FTL travel, claiming it disrupts their consciousness. Instead, they visit other worlds by beamcasting their consciousnesses through hyperwaves. Their 'casts are then downloaded into prefabricated bioroids on destination worlds.
  • Broughtlow, an extremely warlike species of insectoid 'hoppers. Shortly after their relocation to Shining Lake Sector, it became clear that the Broughtlow were not only a warrior race, but also xenophobes bent on exterminating other species. The R.U.R. acted quickly, using genegeneered viruses and other methods  to diminish this species. The resulting alterations in the Broughtlow genome caused a rapid crash in their intellectual capacity. The Broughtlow are no longer capable of piloting or navigating spacecraft, or of building technology above a  T3* level. They are still apt mercenaries, however, and are capable of using modern arms and armor with the assistance of a maintenance crew.
Numerous other minor species exist in the sector as well, such as the Ruhai (the kneeling winged figure depicted in the image at the top of this post). 

As noted above, most inter-system conflicts in Shining Lake Sector are economic in nature. They are due to competition over the particularly lucrative trade with R.U.R. space. The sector is largely friendly to the Empire because the dominant economic force in the sector - the R.U.R. - are the Empire's closest allies. The Empire in turn protects its R.U.R. allies and trade in the sector.  The Empire garrisons Legio XIV Lanterns of the Star Silk Road.on Kunlun Station, and as well as at several other critical trade outposts and worlds in the sector. Finally, the pirate fleets of the Gold Comet Barbarians also look after the Empire's interests, reducing the need for the Empire to maintain large battle fleets in the sector.

Next time we'll look at Kunlun Station itself. It's the heart of Shining Lake Sector.

*Using the Mindjammer scale.

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Cosmic Patrol Was A Hit!

We ran the Cosmic Patrol RPG for the first time today as part of Free RPG Day at the Source. I had four players and two very nice observers who hung out for big chunks of the game (one for the beginning-middle, and one for the end). Open gaming like this has its risks; just earlier this week, I read a horror story about a player's bad experience with other players and GMs in the Games on Demand space at Origins.

But open gaming events like this also offer us the chance for valuable kinds of exchange:
  • The ability to try out new games with folks who are curious and interested in them
  • The opportunity to meet new players
  • The chance to share knowledge about games and how they're played with other GMs and players
For example, the second observer (Dennis, I am pretty sure) asked me to hang out for a bit after the game, so that I could give him a look under the hood at the dice mechanics in Cosmic Patrol.  I did that, and then I asked him what RPGs he likes. He was similar in age to me, and shared that he enjoyed a broad range of games and systems - with an emphasis on ones that facilitate character-driven storytelling.

Dennis said that he likes to run Fantasy Flight Games' new line of Star Wars RPGs, especially Age of Rebellion. I shared that I had found Edge of Empire difficult to read because of all the different dice type icons in the text. Dennis smiled, pulled out his dice bag, and ran me through a couple examples of how the Star Wars dice are used. I really appreciated the exchange!

The Cosmic Patrol scenario I used was the provided in the 2014 Free RPG Day Cosmic Patrol booklet at the top of this post. I ran the first part of The Continuance Contingency in the four hour game slot, which is spot on with the book's guidance that each part takes a game session. I did a lot of improvisation, and so did the players. The Stat Die mechanics encourage the players to do a fair amount too - which they did. The Plot Point mechanics in Cosmic Patrol further facilitate players making narrative declaration, in much the same way that in Fate, you can spend Fate Points at any time to make a declaration.

Cosmic Patrol is designed so that the players will rotate GMing responsibilities between scenes. Players normally take turns being the "Lead Narrator" but for this open gaming event, I GM'ed the entire session myself. Asking players - who are just learning the game mechanics - to take turns running a published scenario: that's asking a lot. The LN model probably works best with a group of players who have experience with the mechanics, and are comfortable with improvisational play and narrative power-sharing. I'd also guess that the LNing also works better without a formal written scenario, so that successive LNs can take the story in whatever direction they prefer without worrying about "breaking links" that connect one part of a scenario to another.

Since I'd like to run Cosmic Patrol at some point for my own Thursday Night Group, I won't say too much about the storyline except that it has things that John Clute's Encyclopedia of Science Fiction calls World Ships: some of my favorite objects in the YOU-KNEE-verse, as Brian Cox might say. Well, I can also share that the players encountered one of the most loquacious Cylon Centurions in galactic history.

One more thing I can share is that the PCs had a shootout with some Achernarians, one of the alien species that are the brainchild of the Hereticwerks blog. (The Achernarians have also made their way into my Doctor Who games. They're called the people from The End of the River for a reason. They get around.)

While we're talking about Hereticwerks, be sure to stop by here and pick up Hereticwerks' Free RPG Day scenario at their blog.

So I'll be running Cosmic Patrol again. It's a great rules-light pick-up game.

If you look at the picture at the top of the post you will see that I also picked up a copy of the Valiant Universe Universe RPG Quick Start Rules today. Valiant uses a modified version of the Cosmic Patrol rules, so I guess I'll be buying that game when it gets released in August!

Friday, June 20, 2014

Deck Of Fridays 23: Left In The Dark

Morlocks in George Pal's The Time Machine (1960)

Welcome back to DECK OF FRIDAYS, our weekly feature here at FATE SF! Each week (more or less) since the release of the Deck of Fate, we have made a draw from the Deck of FateRPG Inspiration Cards, or another Aspect-generative randomizer. Then we do something interesting with it, using the Aspect as inspiration for a campaign or scenario seed, a situation, scene, location, NPC, thingie, etc.

This week's draw from the Deck of Fate is a card with the Aspect: Left in the Dark. In English, that's a commonly used colloquial expression that denotes not knowing what's going on, often due to the conscious agency of someone who is in the know. But we're interpreting it more literally today.

At first I thought of poor Gollum.

Then I remembered the Morlocks.


For the Morlocks, being left in the dark is a rite of passage. Sooner or later, every Morlock youth is drugged, rendered unconscious, and then abandoned in the underworld. In the cold and the dark. They're alone, with no food or water. 

Those who survive, make their way back to their band.  They gain a true name, a mate, and the beginnings of social status: a key to a machine, locker, or room in the underworld. Morlocks who don't survive, well, sooner or later their bones get discovered when someone trips on them in the Dark Galleries. Those bones get kicked swiftly into a dark corner to be forgotten. Or they are quickly claimed, pocketed, and later carved into fetishes and weapons.

But there's another way that Morlocks get Left in the Dark. All Morlocks love the things below, but their kind are also driven by a deterritorializing impulse. Bands move on, seeking new living spaces and places to labor freely by crossing the narrow dark spaces between the worlds. New machines. New galleries and rooms to conquer and explore. 

Now-useless keys soon become charms and wards.

At first, the Morlocks moved about in time and space using the Visitor's time machine. Later, they found similar machines created by others. The Morlocks spread to still more worlds. The machine tenders thrived wherever they found galleries to explore and machinery to tend underground.

In time, the Morlocks found other ways to squeeze between the worlds. There are passages in the dark, gates that open onto branching tunnels walled by absolute darkness. Shamans take the lead; the rest of the clan follows. Morlocks traverse these tunnels by forming chains of hands. Some even use real chains to bind one to the next. No one wants to be lost forever, blind in the dark. 

But on every such journey, someone stumbles and loses hold of their fellows. Or a link in the chain breaks, as if of its own accord. Those whose chains break lose their way; they cannot see in this dark between worlds. They find themselves alone, in a pocket of darkness. 

They quail, brood, and curse that darkness.

And the darkness curses them back. 

Those left in these dark interstices grow strange. They grow strange: their bodies change in gross and subtle ways. Their minds change. They hunger and thirst, alone in the dark. 

They become perverse desiring engines, seeking to transform others.

Those left in the dark When others pass, they extend a foot to trip other feet. They bite and break the chain tying one traveler to the destiny of another. 

Misery loves company. Mutation abhors a vacuum. 

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Cosmic Patrol For Free RPG Day

We'll be running Cosmic Patrol for Free RPG Day at 2 PM Saturday, June 21. The action happens at Source Comics and Games in Roseville, Minnesota.

Cosmic Patrol is a fast-paced game of pulp-inspired SF. Friends have asked whether it is similar to Lady Blackbird (which I have never played). I gather it may be, from the number of times I have been asked this. I do know it has aspect-like Cues and Tags, so I gather it has some similarities to Fate. Cosmic Patrol also uses different die types for characters' different attributes, so it may also share something in common with Savage Worlds (another game that I'd really like to play some day).

My past posts about Cosmic Patrol can be found here. The creators even game me permission to convert a few of their lovely finned rocket ships for the Fate system, so you will find them in the link above. So if you are curious about Cosmic Patrol, please stop by and give it a try!

I'll let people know how the session went next week!

Monday, June 16, 2014

New FATE SF Series: Strangers & Friends

Art by Juan Ochoa

We're starting a new Monday series here at FATE SF, courtesy of some great art from a comics project that Juan Ochoa has given us permission to use. Our series is called Strangers & Friends, and will feature a set of NPC write-ups for use in Fate SF RPG games. Are they strangers? Are they friends? You'll have to decide by using them in your games.

Most write-ups will use Mindjammer stats, because I want to stretch those muscles a bit. The characters will be pretty usable in that world, but their bios and history will be written for the default FATE SF space opera universe of the Empire. These folks live in an anarchic border region of the Empire where people have many interactions with the autonomous zones beyond the border.

Next week, I'll be fleshing out the border region in a series of posts.

On Monday, June 30th, we'll post the first the individual character write-up!

Friday, June 13, 2014

Deck of Fridays 22: Treacherous Terrain

Welcome back to DECK OF FRIDAYS, our weekly feature here at FATE SF! Each week (more or less) since the release of the Deck of Fate, we have made a draw from the Deck of FateRPG Inspiration Cards, or another Aspect-generative randomizer. Then we do something interesting with it, using the Aspect as inspiration for a campaign or scenario seed, a situation, scene, location, NPC, thingie, etc.

This week's draw from the Deck of Fate is a card with the Aspect: Treacherous TerrainIt calls to mind the hostile nature of The Green Worlds, planets where plants and insects have a mind of their own; a mind which is hostilely disposed toward humans. Here is a 4DF encounter table based on this treacherous terrain.

Green Worlds Encounter Table

You are in the jungle. What do you encounter?  Roll 4DF or draw a card from the Deck of Fate, and consult the encounter corresponding to the numerical result on the left.
  • -4: The earth suddenly opens up and down you go. This is a pit trap set by a giant arthropod. 
  • -3: A clicking, a buzzing, a humming. An arthropod army is on the move. A human settlement is in danger.
  • -2: That rustling sound. A flash of  bright color in the jungle. Stripes. You are being stalked by a feral orchid predator.
  • -1:  The air smells sweet, redolent of one of the plant masters' toxic or hallucinogenic gases. A Peyotl on a litter borne by human slaves can't be far away from that smell.
  •  0: A party of well-armed Saguaro and their human porter-slaves. 
  • +1: The massive fronds of a giant carnivorous fern reach out to wrap up your limbs.
  • +2: Vines guard the entrance to an ancient temple, cave, or ruin. There is no breeze, but that doesn't stop the vines from twitching.
  • +3: You are suddenly surrounded by a band of hostile, ape-like creatures or anthropomorphs: humans who have degenerated into a bestial state.
  • +4: It's a big thick beanstalk, and it goes up and up

Thursday, June 12, 2014

The Green Worlds

Welcome to the Green Worlds! The Saguaro live on a considerable number of worlds within and beyond the Empire - as mercenaries, as members of the Legions of the Imperial Sovereign, and as contemplatives. A few have even established new religions, or collectivist commonwealths with human and alien partners. In contrast, few worlds welcome or tolerate the manipulative and expansionist Peyotl. These graspers and schemers are restricted to those worlds they have taken by subversion and force, or where they have established a well-defended enclave as a base for future conquest.

The planets conquered by the Peyotl are called the Green Worlds. They have made small but significant and destructive inroads into the Empire, roughing the edges of the Imperial Extents. Theirs is a slow invasion; most Peyotl are in no hurry to do anything. The Peyotl never travel via hyperspace. Something about that medium disturbs them. Instead, some lineages of Peyotl travel at a leisurely 1% of the speed of light, while others use slipknot networks to pass through sutures in the fabric of space-time that allow for immediate transitions from system to another.

All Peyotl have in common their means of transportation: massive bioships that are composite structures grown from an ever-varying mix of substrates (animal, fungal, and plant). Each bioship is an ark, carrying an entire biosphere within it including several Peyotl clans, Saguaro footsoldiers, massive carnivorous ferns, fierce and beautiful orchids, a variety of allied insect species, and often also human slaves.

Every planetary invasion begins with a mass driver attack. Peyotl bioships cast huge seeder modules at target worlds. The heat of atmospheric re-entry triggers germination in the seeder modules. The modules release numerous species' seeds and spores in a massive air burst in the lower atmosphere, ensuring maximum distribution over target areas. At the core of every seeder module is a terraforming engine, which upon impact turns on and begins transforming the planetary environment.

Here are a few of the Green Worlds:
  • Bloom, a world of shallow seas and numerous island chains, once home to a species of nomadic fisherfolk. The fisherfolk are gone now, and Bloom is entirely given over to the Peyotl and their plant and insect allies.
  • Cinder, a Superearth where the Peyotl seeder module bombardment somehow went very wrong, putting enough particulate matter into the atmosphere to produce a runaway greenhouse effect. Rumor has it that some Peyotl survive in domed cities on the planet's surface. 
  • Garganta, a world taken by the Peyotl after a series of furious clashes with the Empire's Legion of the Broken Branch. The loss of this system was a bitter blow to the Empire, because Garganta's slipknots open into the Tangle Supercluster - a megastructure linking more than 1,000 suns.
  • Neweye, an important trade world connecting the Comet Barbarians living within the Empire with their kinfolk living beyond the Imperial Extents. Neweye is an important world for negotiating marriage alliances among the Comet Barbarian clans. The Peyotl established an enclave on a human settled equatorial island just a few dozen kilometers away from the planet's primary spaceport. (The humans have survived on the Green Isle, although they are reportedly very strange. Many have odd tumorous growths in the center of their foreheads.) Peyotl trade various drugs and pharmaceuticals for the Comet Barbarian's ample supply of ancient starcharts and other trade goods. Interestingly, a few of the Peyotl elders have made a name for themselves as matchmakers among the Comet Barbarian clans.
  • Suphis II, home to the Axis Mundi trees. This world was bombarded by a Peyotl ark fleet, but was saved by the foresight of the 30th Imperial Sovereign, who after destroying the invasion fleet used Excommunication to protect the world from further incursions. It's fate is unknown at this time.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014


Saguaro flesh. Photo by L Bolyard.

The flesh of the Saguaro plant people can be harvested and used as a potent psi-enhancing substance. A chunk of the Saguaro's flesh must be cut off a limb or from the main trunk of the creature. This fresh meat is quickly dethorned, and then the leathery green rind is removed so that the softer internal flesh can be pulped and consumed.

Harvesting and consumption must occur in close physical proximity to the living Saguaro donor, or the psi-meat spoils - with deleterious side effects for the imbiber. Each mouthful of pulp confers plant-telepathy upon its subject for one Session. The user's skin takes on a greenish-yellow tint while the drug is in effect. Frequent or continuous consumption can lead to addiction, as well as to permanent somatic changes in the user.

An animal that consumes psi-meat will be able to communicate flawlessly with any nearby plant. Users are also able to communicate with nearby animal species as a Clever Action with a difficulty of 2. The user has little filter, hearing the thoughts of any and all plants, insects, and other animals in close proximity. To determine a specific range in Zones for this sensory input, roll 1DF +2 Zones.

It is important to note that sentient plants are able to effortlessly read the mind of someone who has ingested psi-meat; psi-meat users may roll their own Clever vs. the plant's Clever to defend against such an intrusion.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

The Saguaro

Maricopa Indians gather Saguaro
Photo by Curtis Scott (1907)

Intelligent, bi-limbed or multi-limbed plant people, the Saguaro evolved from sedentary cacti to the mobile, intelligent species we know today. Their point of emergence into sapience is in the far future, in an age when Humanity has declined and diminished after a great Cataclysm, hemmed in by insect races and increasingly under the hegemony of the Plants and their Green Gods.

The Saguaro spread out through time and space. They somehow backtimed, and can now be found on many worlds within and beyond the Empire. Humans and many other species are never entirely comfortable around this spiny green species. While the Saguaro apparently lack eyes to see, ears to hear, and mouths to speak, they are always aware of and responsive to what is going on around them, thanks to a sophisticated psi-sensorium granting them clairvoyance, clairaudience, and plant-telepathy. More than a few humans have experienced the intrusive, resonant, fibrous voice of a Saguaro in their minds, finishing their thoughts for them.

Although Saguaro are from time-to-time hired our as mercenaries - and some even serve in the Legions of the Imperial Sovereign - typically the Saguaro keep to themselves, living with their own kind and other plants in open roofed hexagonal adobe sanctuaries. Humans who visit Saguaro enclaves are usually indentured servants, priests and shamans, or food scientists. Indeed, there is often a ring of huts and small workshops around the Saguaro's Hex Enclaves for these human visitors and servants.

Food scientists play a particularly important role in supporting Saguaro communities. The Saguaro are unable to meet their nutritional needs exclusively through photosynthesis. Certain additional nutrients are required, although neither the Saguaro nor their human food scientist hirelings are forthcoming about their specific requirements.

These cactus people are inspired by Nathalie Henneberg's The Green Gods (1961). Henneberg's work is a rather obvious inspiration for the cactus people of China Mieville's Bas-Lag.


The Saguaro
Intelligent cacti (neutral)

  • High Concept: Intelligent, ambulatory cactus
  • Trouble: Special food requirements
  • Aspect: Like sun but hate fire
  • Aspect: Covered in thorns
  • Aspect: Two or more limbs
  • Careful: +3
  • Clever: +2 
  • Flashy: +1
  • Forceful: +2
  • Quick: 0
  • Sneaky: +1
  • Limb Regeneration - Once per session, a Saguaro may regenerate a lost limb, or grow a new one.
  • Plant Telepathy - Saguaro can communicate flawlessly with any nearby plant; communicating with animal species is a Clever Action with a difficulty of 2.  
  • Psi-Sensorium - Saguaro have 360 degree perception (sight, sound/vibration, heat) for up to 3 zones; declines by 1 step for every successive zone after 3

Note: Saguaro may know two Planar spells for every additional point of Refresh spent.

Monday, June 9, 2014

The Peyotl

Which came first, the Peyotl or the Saguaro? Soft, spineless, limbless, and sessile, the Peyotl are a subtle, deceptive, manipulative, and highly intelligent plant race. They have to be; after all, they have no limbs and always need others to do things for them.

The litter-borne Peyotl are another post-Cataclysmic cactus species. They are a close relative of the Saguaro. Like their more mobile kinfolk, the Peyotl have backtimed, and scattered across many worlds and times. However, their diaspora has not been as successful as that of the Saguaro. They occupy a number of worlds beyond the Imperial Extents, but are rarely seen within the Empire itself, as their species is considered highly inimical to Humanity.

They Peyotl are subtle slavers. Their cells produce numerous addictive and psychoactive substances, and they have the capacity to modify their flesh to produce special organs that facilitate the dissemination of these substances in the air and water, and through fleshy dispensations of drug buttons. Even more uncanny is their ability to affect other species through direct psychic manipulation. The Peyotl have psi-organs with the ability to simulate human brain functions. They use these structures to model the effects of the psychoactive substances that their body produces, psi-projecting those effects directly into nearby human minds as hallucinations and various other affects.

Humans who live in proximity to the Peyotl loose all capacity for true self-governance, although human polities will continue to be led by ever more refined aristocratic castes. The Peyotl are happy to rule behind the scenes, as scientific and political advisers, prime ministers, government officials, and oracles. They gradually replace human policy-making and political debate with ritual and vegetal procedure. Humans diversify into myriad social and racial castes under the Peyotl's subtle rule: both minds and genomes are manipulated and transformed through the Peyotl's constant experiments. Some humans even have strange tumorous growths on their foreheads: perhaps attempts at neural repression, perhaps experiments with the desuppression of the pineal gland.

The Saguaro who accompany Peyotl are likewise anything but their equals. They are as inferior as the ever-drugged human slaves who bear the litters of the Peyotl-folk and who worship them as Green Gods. In the presence of Peyotl, the Saguaro are reduced; they are capable of little more than being loyal foot soldiers of the Peyotl. For example, Saguaro in the presence of Peyotl can never use spells.

These cactus people are inspired by Nathalie Henneberg's The Green Gods (1961). Henneberg's work is a possible inspiration for the manipulative fungal overlords of  Jeff VanderMeer's Finch.


Intelligent cacti (inimical)

  • High Concept: Manipulative cactus overlord
  • Trouble: No physical defenses
  • Aspect: Like sun but hate fire
  • Aspect: Others carry them
  • Aspect: A drug haze surrounds them
  • Careful: +3
  • Clever: +4 
  • Flashy: +2
  • Forceful: 0
  • Quick: 0
  • Sneaky: +2
  • Command Plants - Take +2 to Flashy Approach to Create an Advantage with other plants (this is a psi-charismatic leadership ability)
  • Plant Telepathy - Peyotl can communicate flawlessly with any nearby plant or animal.
  • Purple Haze -   Take +2 to Sneaky Approach to Attack humans or animals with a haze of psychoactive drugs
  • Psi-Sensorium - Peyotl have 360 degree perception (sight, sound/vibration, heat) for up to 3 zones; declines by 1 step for every successive zone after 3
  • The Flesh is Willing - Once per session, Peyotl may create a new organ to produce or secrete drugs or psychoactive substances.

Note: Peyotl may know two Enchantment, Illusion, or Planar spells for every additional point of Refresh spent.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Psi*Run Saturday

The Italian edition of Meguey Baker's Psi*Run has a much cooler cover (a box?) than the U.S. edition, but our edition is just as much fun to play! My friend Peter came to town this past weekend, and took the game for a first test drive with a group of four players. Psi*Run is aptly named. It's an RPG in which you play a psion of some sort; you create your PC's specific power at the beginning of the game. Psi*Run is also a chase game: the players are the survivors of a crash of some kind, and they are on the run from "the chasers".

The aim of your group of psions is to get away from the crash and from the chasers who will soon begin pursuing you. The crash can be of any sort: an airship, prison bus, black 'copter, flying saucer or something else entirely. That's something the table decides. The players help build the world with this choice, and how the player characters go about answering questions about their circumstances, their personal history, and their powers helps build the world further.

The PCs aren't entirely sure why they are being pursued. But each PC starts with a series of questions, blanks in their memory, that get filled-in as a result of actions that trigger memories during the course of play. Each player creates a list of questions in the character generation process, and the action mechanics create opportunities for players to answer each other's questions.

The game uses D6s. How many get rolled depend on the action. Any time you are using psi powers you will be rolling a good number of dice. Results from the roll are allocated to several different kinds of outcomes, including getting answers to one's memories. As in the *World games, each die result falls in one of three ranges of scores, determining the quality of the result. For example, a particular score range may determine that people get hurt in a conflict. Allocating die to memories has produces different results because the three score ranges determine whether the player, the other players, or the GM determine the answer to a memory question.

Overall Psi*Run felt more free form and less structured or hyper-procedural than many storygames I have played. I would play this one again!